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Dimensional Latent Structure of Early Disruptive Behavior Disorders: A Taxometric Analysis in Preschoolers


Although disruptive behavior disorders (DBDs) are used as a distinct categorical diagnosis in clinical practice, they have repeatedly been described as having a dimensional structure in taxometric analyses. In the current study the authors analyzed the latent status of disruptive behaviors (DB) in a large sample (N = 2,808) of German preschool children (2–6 years old, mean age 53.7 months, SD = 13.5, 48.4% girls). The Eyberg Child Behavior Inventory (ECBI) as well as the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) were used to compile indicators of the DB core dimensions (Temper Loss, Aggression, Noncompliance, and Low Concern for others). Three widely used taxometric methods (a) MAXEIG, (b) MAMBAC, and (c) L-Mode were applied. Simulation data were created to evaluate the Comparison Curve Fit Index values (CCFIs), which were below 0.45, supporting a dimensional solution. Hence, in the current study the latent structure of DB in preschoolers encompassed differences in degree rather than kind. Researchers and practitioners should be mindful of the dimensional latent status of DB in theory building, assessment, classification, and labeling.

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  1. It should be noted that even for taxonic conditions (such as pregnancy, cancer, influenza infection), it is often important to know its stage or severity. Nonetheless, this is typically done after first assessing whether the condition is present.


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Correspondence to Sören Kliem.

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Conflict of Interest

RB is member of an international development task force with advisory function for PCIT international (uncompensated activity). NH is Director of the University Outpatient Treatment Center for children, adolescents and adults in which they deliver PCIT to young children with ODD (including administration of the required ECBI as an assessment tool).

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All procedures involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee, and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Informed consent was obtained from each individual participating in the study.

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Kliem, S., Heinrichs, N., Lohmann, A. et al. Dimensional Latent Structure of Early Disruptive Behavior Disorders: A Taxometric Analysis in Preschoolers. J Abnorm Child Psychol 46, 1385–1394 (2018).

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  • Taxometrics
  • Disruptive behavior
  • Assessment
  • Pre-school children
  • Latent structure